What Is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy?

Ataxic Cerebral PalsyEven if you are more familiar with cerebral palsy than the average person, there is a good chance you do not know anything about ataxic cerebral palsy. That is because it is the least common type of this disability, affecting somewhere between 5% and 10% of those with various palsy disorders.  The word “ataxia” means “lacking coordination and order.” Sadly, it is a fitting way to describe a version of cerebral palsy wherein a child has tremors and speech problems. Fortunately, while ataxic cerebral palsy does not currently have a cure, there are a number of different treatment options available to help children cope and enjoy a high quality of life.

What Causes Ataxic Cerebral Palsy?

Ataxic cerebral palsy occurs as the result of damage done to the cerebellum. As this part of the human brain is responsible for supporting movement and coordination, it is no surprise that the symptoms of this form of cerebral palsy involve trouble with both.

However, while two children with ataxic cerebral palsy may have the same symptoms, they can occur because of very different attacks on the cerebellum. One way this occurs is when the white cells in a child’s brain become damaged via lesions. High blood pressure in the mother during pregnancy can be the culprit too. If the child experiences brain bleeding before birth, it can lead to ataxic cerebral palsy. Any issues with the placenta during or prior to delivery might result in this disability as well.

Problems with Movements

Daily activities are often all but impossible for those with ataxic cerebral palsy to carry out, because it can affect each of their limbs. Thus, common symptoms include:

  • Tremors and/or arms and hands that shake because of poor coordination and inaccurate movements
  • Difficulty with repetitious movements, like clapping or writing
  • Trouble walking
  • Walking with a wide gait that puts their feet out further than their hips

Speech Difficulties

Most people with cerebral palsy will experience some type of problem trying to talk. “Scanning speech” is sometimes the term used to describe the monotone voice people with ataxic cerebral palsy usually have. They may also suddenly speed up their cadence only to slow it way down shortly thereafter. Some will also make a breathing sound when talking.

Oral Issues

Furthermore, many children with this type of cerebral palsy have a hard time swallowing. Their gastric and intestinal responsiveness may be slowed too, leading to problems like acid reflux or gastrointestinal disease.

Diagnosing Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Most children do not get diagnosed with ataxic cerebral palsy right away. Instead, it usually will not happen until they are at least 18 months of age. Doctors tend to be hesitant about making formal diagnosis based solely on a child’s motor skills, as they can develop at different rates in perfectly healthy children.

However, a diagnosis is almost always made prior to a child turning three. Usually, the doctors will notice some sign that development is taking much longer than it otherwise should.

Treatment Options

While no cure exists, there are a number of treatments that can be used to help with ataxic cerebral palsy. These include:

  • Early intervention is always important, no matter what kind of disability you are talking about. The earlier this type of cerebral palsy is caught, the better chance a child has of getting caught up with development.
  • Therapy for children with ataxic cerebral palsy involves speech, physical and occupational.
  • Medication can help suppress the tremors so often associated with ataxic cerebral palsy. Your doctor will know what kind to prescribe your child for this and other issues.

Ataxic cerebral palsy will definitely be a challenge to you and your child. However, the above information should help you better understand therefore deal with this condition.

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